Rhodri Marsden: When it comes to saucy pictures, trust no one. Least of all yourself

 

The case of John Schindler is a curious one. A former NSA analyst and, until recently, a professor at the US Naval War College, he resigned on Tuesday following a college investigation into whether a widely circulated picture of his penis was actually his.

In May, as part of a consensual text message exchange with an unnamed woman, a man alleged to be Schindler sent a picture of his penis. She replied, expressing surprise at its size. That exchange was screengrabbed by the woman and leaked on Twitter shortly afterwards.

As a consequence of this, Schindler is no longer in his post, and it prompts a number of questions. One of them is why a former NSA analyst who presumably knew a bit about operations security would have allowed himself to be put in such a position. Another is why Schindler felt forced to resign. Yes, the world may have seen his penis, but he wasn't the one who showed it to us. Perhaps, as a married man, his implied infidelity was frowned upon by his employers, but without the penis furore it probably wouldn't have been such a big deal.

There was another recent case in Savannah, Georgia, where pupils gained access to a female teacher's phone and enthusiastically shared her naked photos online. Again, the teacher was dismissed from her post, presumably unable to continue because people had seen her breasts. But the moral judgements being made are lacking in consistency. Another teacher in Pasadena recently went unreprimanded after his email was hacked and naked photos of him were sent to friends and colleagues.

A specific law was passed last year in California to prohibit the dissemination of sexually explicit photos belonging to someone else, and that may have persuaded his employer that he was the victim of a malicious act. But so was Schindler, and so was the teacher in Savannah. "Revenge porn" is a term used to describe disgruntled ex-partners posting naked pictures online, but all these cases amount to the same thing. Your privacy has been maliciously compromised, and it's not your fault.

"Oh, it certainly IS your fault," I hear people cry, people who view the taking of intimate photos with the same disdain as they view zoophilia. But such pictures exist for one of two reasons. Either someone has been placed under pressure by their partner (a horribly insidious form of control) or they've done it willingly, driven by sexual impulse. Long gone are the days where people would take a Polaroid of their own genitals, wave the picture around for a bit, watch it develop, look at it, pop it in an envelope and wander down to the postbox. That gave time for reflection. Today, we live in an age of instant, technology-driven gratification, and while no provocative snaps of me exist, I wouldn't blame anyone for succumbing to the temptation.

But having succumbed, your pictures will lie around in digital form. There must be millions upon millions of lewd snaps across the globe, sitting on email servers, phones, tablets, laptops, cameras and so on.

Given that data is never as safe as we think it is, that adds up to a whole heap of brooding anxiety as we ponder the motives and future actions of anyone we share intimate moments with. The woman who quite literally exposed Schindler explained that she only "wanted to inform his wife and embarrass him". In some parts of the world, she'd have broken the law, but Schindler's the one paying the price for misguidedly placing his trust in someone. The moral of all this is probably "trust no one, least of all yourself". And that feels like an unpleasant place for us all to be sitting.

Life and Style
ebookNow available in paperback
ebooks
ebookPart of The Independent’s new eBook series The Great Composers
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Gadgets & Tech

    Ashdown Group: Front-End UI Application Developer

    £30000 - £40000 per annum + Benefits: Ashdown Group: Front-End UI Application ...

    Recruitment Genius: Digital Account Executive

    £18000 - £26000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: They work with major vehicle ma...

    Ashdown Group: C# Developer

    £30000 - £36000 per annum + Benefits: Ashdown Group: C# Developer A highly s...

    Ashdown Group: Senior Test Engineer

    £45000 - £50000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: A market leading software...

    Day In a Page

    Where the spooks get their coffee fix: The busiest Starbucks in the US is also the most secretive

    The secret CIA Starbucks

    The coffee shop is deep inside the agency's forested Virginia compound
    Revealed: How the Establishment closed ranks over fallout from Loch Ness Monster 'sighting'

    How the Establishment closed ranks over fallout from Nessie 'sighting'

    The Natural History Museum's chief scientist was dismissed for declaring he had found the monster
    One million Britons using food banks, according to Trussell Trust

    One million Britons using food banks

    Huge surge in number of families dependent on emergency food aid
    Excavation at Italian cafe to fix rising damp unearths 2,500 years of history in 3,000 amazing objects

    2,500 years of history in 3,000 amazing objects

    Excavation at Italian cafe to fix rising damp unearths trove
    The Hubble Space Telescope's amazing journey, 25 years on

    The Hubble Space Telescope's amazing journey 25 years on

    The space telescope was seen as a costly flop on its first release
    Did Conservative peer Lord Ashcroft quit the House of Lords to become a non-dom?

    Did Lord Ashcroft quit the House of Lords to become a non-dom?

    A document seen by The Independent shows that a week after he resigned from the Lords he sold 350,000 shares in an American company - netting him $11.2m
    Apple's ethnic emojis are being used to make racist comments on social media

    Ethnic emojis used in racist comments

    They were intended to promote harmony, but have achieved the opposite
    Sir Kenneth Branagh interview: 'My bones are in the theatre'

    Sir Kenneth Branagh: 'My bones are in the theatre'

    The actor-turned-director’s new company will stage five plays from October – including works by Shakespeare and John Osborne
    The sloth is now the face (and furry body) of three big advertising campaigns

    The sloth is the face of three ad campaigns

    Priya Elan discovers why slow and sleepy wins the race for brands in need of a new image
    How to run a restaurant: As two newbies discovered, there's more to it than good food

    How to run a restaurant

    As two newbies discovered, there's more to it than good food
    Record Store Day: Remembering an era when buying and selling discs were labours of love

    Record Store Day: The vinyl countdown

    For Lois Pryce, working in a record shop was a dream job - until the bean counters ruined it
    Usher, Mary J Blige and Will.i.am to give free concert as part of the Global Poverty Project

    Mary J Blige and Will.i.am to give free concert

    The concert in Washington is part of the Global Citizen project, which aims to encourage young people to donate to charity
    10 best tote bags

    Accessorise with a stylish shopper this spring: 10 best tote bags

    We find carriers with room for all your essentials (and a bit more)
    Paul Scholes column: I hear Manchester City are closing on Pep Guardiola for next summer – but I'd also love to see Jürgen Klopp managing in England

    Paul Scholes column

    I hear Manchester City are closing on Pep Guardiola for next summer – but I'd also love to see Jürgen Klopp managing in England
    Jessica Ennis-Hill: 'I just want to give it my best shot'

    Jessica Ennis-Hill: 'I just want to give it my best shot'

    The heptathlete has gone from the toast of the nation to being a sleep-deprived mum - but she’s ready to compete again. She just doesn't know how well she'll do...